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"Bug bombs" or "foggers," are pesticides in aerosol cans, that have been banned from New York state after a report published last Friday by the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention stated several hundred illness and injuries were related to the use of these products. The bug bomb is used to kill and prevent insects such as cockroaches, fleas, and other bugs from invading your home. Although it is a relatively cheap way of getting rid of these pests, improper (and even proper) use of the bug bomb comes with hazards: the CDC reported 466 illnesses or injuries caused by these products in eight states, including Michigan, between 2001-2006. The state of New York reported 123 of the 466 cases and has taken action to ban the pesticide from consumers and available only to certified pesticide applicators.

The majority of reported cases required no medical treatment but experienced symptoms of cough, burning eyes, and headache. Due to the fumes released by the bug bombs, improper use can cause cramping, nausea, vomiting, and shortness of breath. Several individuals had to be hospitalized after using the bug bomb in their own home, or a neighbor who shares the same ventilation system used the pesticide. Sadly, the bug bomb was even blamed for the death of a baby who was asleep when her apartment was treated with three foggers.

Since bug bombs are still available for consumer use everywhere outside New York, it is important to follow the directions printed on the can if using this form of pesticide. The CDC has issued a set of safety precautions to help reduce the risk of health problems when using these products:

  • Prevent pests from entering your home in the first place by removing their sources of food, water, and shelter. This can be done by making sure there are no leaky pipes, dead plants, or litter surrounding your home.
  • Do not use more foggers than is necessary. Bug bombs come in several different ounce cans for different size homes: one 6-ounce can is sufficient for a medium sized home. As a general rule, use one ounce for every 1,000 cubic feet of living space. Additionally, these products should not be used in enclosed areas such as closets or under tables.
  • Place the bug bomb at least 6 feet away from any ignition source, such as a flame, pilot light, or electrical appliance spark (ex: refrigerator.) If you cannot avoid this, make sure all ignition sources are turned off and/or unplugged.
  • Properly ventilate the area.
  • Remove children, pets, toys, and food from the area being treated.
  • Read the label and follow the instructions carefully!

If you decide to use a bug bomb in your home and you or a family member begin to experience any of the symptoms above, ventilate and evacuate the home and contact the National Poison Control Center, 1-800-222-1222.

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